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Six Factors to Consider When Choosing a Luxury Pen
Even in a world of smart phones, tablets, and e-readers, the popularity of luxury pens is actually on the rise. However much of your day is lived electronically and online, there is still nothing quite like the look and feel of a hand-crafted luxury pen to add a touch of elegance and authority to your everyday interactions.
For many, though, the intiial search for a luxury pen leads to a bewildering array of choices and decisions. The suggestions below will guide you through the process and provide a starting point for further exploration of the world of high quality writing instruments. If you have further questions, or would prefer personalized guidance in finding the right pen for you, just call us at (323) 655-2641, or e-mail us at [email protected].
1. What Kind of Pen?
There is no better place to begin your search for the perfect luxury pen than by considering just which kind of pen you wish to have. The three basic varieties to consider are ballpoints, rollerballs, and fountain pens.
The ultimate luxury pen clearly remains the fountain pen. Utilizing a metal nib, usually made of solid gold, and containing an internal ink supply via replaceable cartridges, a refillable converter, or a built-in internal reservoir, fountain pens offer the ultimate in writing elegance and sophistication. For most luxury pen buyers, a fountain pen is the writing instrument of choice.
Many fine writing instruments can also be made available in ballpoint versions with replaceable refills. Ballpoints offer the convenience of a twist or click-top action, often making these pens a good fit for those with an active, on-the-go lifestyle. Rollerball pens offer a greater degree of smoothness on the page, and like ballpoints use disposable refills. Unlike ballpoints, most rollerball pens utilize a screw or twist-on cap.
2. Pricing and Value
Pricing for luxury fountain pens can range from the mid-$100 range for such excellent entry level pens as the Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor Sapporo, and Platinum 3776, to literally tens of thousands of dollars for limited and one-of-a-kind writing instruments produced by companies such as Danitrio and Namiki.
Between these two extremes, a wealth of exceptional writing instruments can be found in the $500 to $2000 dollar range and up. Of particular note in this price range are the pens from Tokyo-based Nakaya, which produces hand-crafted ebonite Urushi pens starting at $500 for rollerball pens and $550 for fountain pens.
Artisanal production processes and a direct relationship with a handful of retailers worldwide allows Nakaya to offer these exceptional writing instruments at prices well below that of comparable pens from other companies. These pens are excellent daily writers, and with the addition of painted Maki-e designs and precious materials such as raden and gold dust, can often be regarded as works of art in their own right.
3. Pen Body Materials
Another factor to consider in chossing a luxury pen is the material used for the cap and barrel. While many excellent writing instruments use high quality resins, the true sign of a higher end luxury pen is the use of hand-worked materials such as ebonite hard rubber, celluloid, precious woods, or metals such as titanium and sterling silver.
Ebonite hard rubber is the classic material for quality pens, and many vintage writing instruments made from it are still in everyday usage a hundred years and more after being manufactured. Almost all Nakaya pens, as well as most Sailor King of Pen series models and the Namiki Yukari, Yukari Royale, and Emperor pens are made from ebonte hard rubber, as are the hand-crafted Maki-e pens from Danitrio.
High quality celluloid also has a long history, and remains a specialty of upscale Italian manufacturers such as Aurora, Montegrappa, and Omas. Wood body pens have their own long history, continued in series such as the Nakaya Briarwood and Sailor Precious Woods Collection. Surprisingly affordable sterling silver pens are available from Namiki and Sailor, while titanium remains a popular material in such current models as the Nakaya Writer Piccolo Titanium and Omas Arte Italiana Paragon Titanium.
4. Finish and Trim
While colored resins and paint-based lacquers remain popular in more affordable writing instruments, hand-applied finish with natural Urushi lacquer has become the standard for most Japanese luxury pens, and has frequently been adopted for use on some models by European companies such as Pelikan as well.
Urushi is a natural substance and can be used for either solid color roiro-migaki finishes or layered tame-nuri finishes. When used, as is most often the case, on an ebonite hard rubber surface, the result is a writing instrument with a uniquely warm, comfortable feel in the hand - many pen owners remark that once they have used a Urushi pen, it is the only kind of pen they wish to use.
The metal trim utilized also has an effect on the value and aesthetics of a pen - while many high quality pens use gold or rhodium plating over brass, some luxury pens will use solid sterling silver or even solid gold for the clip and banding. And while luxury fountain pens will already feature solid gold nibs, platings in rhodium, ruthenium, or rose gold are often used to match the exterior trim on the cap and barrel.
5. Special Edition, Limited Edition, and Made to Order Pens
While many luxury pens are available as standard order items, others are offered only as special or limited edition models or as one-of-a-kind bespoke ordered items. Germany-based Pelikan, for instance, is well known for limited run special edition pens such as the M800 Burnt Orange and M101N Lizard, while virtually all other manufacturers offer specially numbered limited edition pens which often become highly prized collector's items.
When even a numbered limited edition isn't special enough, Nakaya is able to produce one- of-a-kind specially designed pens unique to each customer. Nakaya can craft a pen to the individual customer's taste and needs, incorporating such elements as individualized designs and motifs and customized kanji calligraphy. For many pen aficianados, a custom Nakaya is the ultimate writing instrument.
6. Writing Quality and Customer Support and Service
Last but certainly not least is the actual writing experience afforded by the pen. This is particulary the case with fountain pens, which can offer a variety of writing experiences depending on the nib point used, as well as adjustments for ink flow, writing pressure, and angle of use.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers provide only cursory attention to this vital part of the production process, producing pens which function more as high-priced paperweights than quality writing instruments. Fortunately, here at nibs.com we are able to correct for this - unless otherwise requested, each pen we sell is inspected, tested, and optimized for the personal writing characteristics and preferences of the end user.
This process, also known as nib tuning, insures that the pens you purchase from us will not just be beautiful to look at, but will also provide a quality writing experience for years to come. Nib customizations, which can turn an ordinary fountain pen into a distinctive signature pen or calligraphy instrument, are also available from us. Extra attention to the writing process itself makes the most of the luxury pen experience.
While the diverse world of luxury pens may seem daunting at first, choices based on style, budget, and writing characteristics can quickly lead to a pen or pens that will bring many years of enjoyment. Still have questions? Feel free to contact us - you can reach us here by phone at (323) 655-2641, or by e-mail at [email protected].